HUDSON — It’s a common theme in collegiate and professional sports.
An athlete is a bona fide superstar in high school or college. However, when that same athlete makes the jump to the collegiate or pro levels, everything changes dramatically.
Some of those athletes’ positions among the elite remain intact. For others, they may have to settle for a greatly reduced role and terminate their alpha-dog status for good.
Thomas Adams-Wall has been dealing with this massive transition process throughout the winter. And let’s just say he’s not drawing up X’s and O’s for the University of Kentucky or the Los Angeles Lakers.
For Adams-Wall, his situation is a bit more complicated. That’s because his locker room is loaded with fidgety teenagers.
"Most of them are kind of used to being the top kids in their middle schools," the Western Reserve Academy head boys basketball coach said of his players. "Guys coming in as sophomores, they’re used to being the guy at their high school. And then you come in and you have all these new guys."
These "new guys" have had their share of peaks and valleys thus far.
After a 72-61 loss to Andrews Osborne Academy’s International Sports Academy Thursday at the Murdough Athletic Center Gymnasium, the Pioneers are a modest 5-6.
Of course, it’s not like Reserve has played against a bunch of cardboard cutouts.
ISA, which makes its home in Willoughby, featured a Division I recruit, along with a few others who are drawing interest from various universities. WRA also played some highly prestigious squads at The Hill School Tournament last month in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
Unlike most schools, Reserve’s athletes probably won’t spend too much time with each other during the summer. They’re likely not going to enjoy each other’s company during the holidays either.
While they do include Hudson residents Miller Taylor, Aidan McKenna, Cade Howard and Vijay Sastry on their roster, the Pioneers also feature players from all over the globe.
Six-foot-6 senior forward Dimitrije Radusinovic, who scored a game-high 21 points against the Phoenix, is a first-year player from Podgorica, Montenegro.
Sophomore guard Malik Brown makes his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada during the offseason. Another sophomore, starting point guard Cameron Baker, lives in Grand Blanc, Michigan. Reserve also has players from Maryland, Chicago and South Carolina.
WRA has a 6-6 sophomore wunderkind too. And this dazzling playmaker doesn’t need to purchase a plane ticket to reach College Street in Hudson.
In fact, this extremely gifted young man is expected to be heavily recruited by major college coaches throughout the nation over the next three years.
His name is Chris Livingston.
The Akron native is the Pioneers’ brightest star after leading Akron Buchtel to the Division II state semifinals last season. Although he struggled a bit with his shot against ISA, Livingston, who scored 40 points twice last month, is averaging more than 30 points per game.
Adams-Wall knows a once-in-a-generation player like Livingston has to have the ball in his hands as much as possible. That’s a given, but there have been other questions the basketball guru has been trying to answer ever since his team’s first practice in November.
Who else gets a piece of the pie? And do some of the players get a bigger piece than others?
"It’s different," Adams-Wall said. "Growing up at a prep school in New England [the Governor’s Academy in Massachusetts], we’d have new kids come in every year. I was used to that. It’s not like your K [kindergarten] through 12 school."
Reserve’s on-the-job training has been chaotic at times. Nevertheless, this fast-growing corporation of basketball marvels has plenty of promise.
More importantly, WRA’s quick-learning employees are becoming more comfortable in their positions. That includes the executives and the laborers.
"We talk about what everybody’s role is on the team," Adams-Wall said. "Everyone knows their role, which is good. The more consistent we get with all of that, the better we’re going to be. We have 19 games left."
That’s certainly good news.
Prior to 2020, the Pioneers’ "chemistry" lessons came to an abrupt halt. Santa and his reindeer may have had something to do with it. Due to the holidays, Reserve’s court was adjourned for what seemed like an eternity.
That would be an excruciating 18 days, as a matter of fact.
"It’s working out well," Adams-Wall said. "I think it’s just getting used to playing together. With the two-and-a-half week break, they’re not all in the gym together like any other school in the area."
That rust certainly showed when they returned to the floor for their 2020 debut.
Trailing by as many as double digits, WRA struggled to a 60-56 victory over Hawken Wednesday in Gates Mills.
Although Thursday’s contest produced a negative result, Adams-Wall felt more comfortable than he did 24 hours earlier. For him, a loss on the scoreboard is far less gut-wrenching if his players are chummy with one another.
Having a large group of enthusiastic teenagers supporting you doesn’t hurt either. Especially since they come from all over the world.
"To our guys’ credit, we’re playing as a team," Adams-Wall said. "Everyone likes each other. The student section was awesome."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.